In A Map of Tulsa, the protagonist Jim Praley, can't ignore the city's relationship with oil. His girlfriend, Adrienne Booker, is born into a wealthy oil family and Jim remembers "an issue of National Geographic my dad kept, from the '78 oil crisis. Tulsa was on the cover, an aerial photograph of the refineries, lit up like a metropolis at night," he says. Tulsa has boasted of the moniker "oil capital of the world" although whether it still qualifies, is a point that is open for debate.
It was towards the end of the nineteenth century, in 1897, that the Nellie Johnstone well blew in Bartlesville, 40 miles north of Tulsa. The Red Fork and Glen Pool gushers were discovered shortly thereafter and the city, which started publishing the Oil & Gas Journal in 1902, firmly established itself as the Oil Capital of the World. By 1907, around 100 oil companies had made Tulsa their base. The city's access to ready transportation and its scenic beauty were inviting to many corporations who set up headquarters there.
The Jazz Age of the 1920s was a roaring time for Tulsa the first International Petroleum Exposition and Congress was launched here and the annual expo was soon seen as the place to be if you were a player in the industry. Tulsa's oilmen included J. Paul Getty and Harry Sinclair and many gave generously to philanthropic causes including the arts and education.
Arguably nothing serves as the face of Tulsa's oil fortunes better than The Golden Driller, which at 76 feet tall, is the largest free-standing statue in the world. The mustard-colored oilman even rests his hand on an actual oil derrick. The statue is the official state monument and is a part of the Tulsa County fairgrounds.
Tulsa's place in the US oil industry was pretty secure until Houston started upstaging it during the boom times after World War II. With oil gushers sprouting up in abundance in Texas and offshore drilling also increasing, the city of Houston, with its accessibility to both railroads and ports, started garnering more attention from the industry. Even as Tulsa continued to command respect, the shift to Houston accelerated and was more or less cemented in the 1960s. It is not surprising that Tulsa's ice hockey team and Houston's football team are both called The Oilers!
This article is from the April 17, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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